Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Learning From the April 2010 Flood

Learning From the April 2010 Flood


Water is essential.  We drink it, clean with it, grow with it, cook with it, eat from it, play with it and use it for power.  We could not live without it.    Yet our homes are designed to fight it.  We protect ourselves with buildings and their parts; roofing, flashing, siding, gutters, windows and doors, and foundations.  We prevent water’s damaging effects by good design and best building practices, all assisted with paints, finishes, sealants, epoxies, “maintenance free products”, and other techniques and materials that attempt to ward off the inevitable infiltration and failure.


The floods of April 2010 were devastating to many, and annoying to even more.  An onslaught of continuous rain and elevated water tables caused even the driest basements to get water.  But how did it get in, or even better, how do I keep it out for good?  These tips are for buildings where water infiltration can be prevented.  Some buildings just cannot resist the volume of water that occurred one year ago.


Water is lazy.  It seeks the path of least resistance in a downward path.  Water is strong.  Just like a Hollywood movie, the dam begins to fail with the smallest leak, then BAM, there goes the whole thing.  Our homes may not be that dramatic, although we have to be diligent about preventing conditions that cause infiltration and also prepare for when it does.  It’s not the pessimist in me, it’s the reality of water behavior.


Water Management

Water management designs a path for water, ideally away from the home. When you cannot direct water away and it comes in, the plan must change to managing moisture and expelling water.  Water problems range from poor runoff control, a foundation with lots of holes, the site has poor drainage, or the house sits in a high water table.  Whatever the problem, solutions start with managing water and runoff outside.

  • Slope soil down from the foundation, shedding away surface water.
  • Make downspouts work. They consolidate roof runoff to get away from the house.
  • Use more pervious surfaces. Less concrete and blacktop, especially when they are right up to the foundation.
  • Cellar Windows- Clean out the window wells.  Make sure the windows are sealed & working properly.  Install a fixed storm if necessary.
  • Basement walls- Each type of wall does not get the same treatment.  Sealing active leaks from the inside may cause more trouble by trapping water pressure.  Coatings or treatments should not seal, but cover and fill.  For example, a brick foundation should never be sealed, but it can be coated with finishes from whitewash, to a soft mortar stucco.  Consult with a mason, not just a waterproofing company.
  • A French Drain is a trench covered with gravel or rock that redirects surface and groundwater. French drains are used to prevent ground and surface water from penetrating or damaging foundations. French drains are also used behind retaining walls to relieve ground water pressure.
    • Interior French drains- collect water as it comes through foundation
    • Exterior French Drains- collecting water where downspout management is not possible, where gutters do not exist, or where the ground slopes towards the house, not away from it.
    • Dry Wells- Dry Wells have been effective water control systems for centuries.  They were especially popular in the 19th century for controlling downspout water.  If you have a drywell, investigate rooting it out and reusing it.
    • Rainwater Harvesting.  People have managed water for several millennia, where homes capture and reuse water runoff. Water from downspouts is collected in surface or underground tanks.  The water can irrigate landscapes, fill swimming pools or ponds, flush toilets, and wash clothes. Rainwater systems can also produce water suitable for showering or drinking.
    • Sump pumps- Always check operation before you need them.  They are much cheaper than the damage an inoperable pump causes.  If you did or still get water and do not have a pump or hole for one, get a floor sucker pump so it is ready when you need it.
      • A Submersible Sump Pump runs off of electricity and is able to function beneath water. It is placed below ground level typically in a sump pit at the basement’s low point. It should operate from a float activated switch.
      • Pedestal Sump Pumps have a motor placed above the water line. When water approaches a particular level the pump starts automatically. They are ideal for basements requiring a lot of water pumping.
      • Water powered sump pump is operated through a house’s plumbing system. Water pressure is used to eliminate water from flooding situations. A float switch turns on a water pump that requires less mechanical parts that can fail.
      • Floor Sucker Pumps extract water within 1/8″ of a floor. These are great in areas where the pump cannot be placed in a sump pit.
      • Wet/Dry Vacuum- A must for all homes.  Also consider purchasing a HEPA filter for fine dust.  Be sure to remove all filters and bags before vacuuming water.
      • Dehumidification- Any dampness should be mitigated with a dehumidifier OR air conditioner.  Humidity creates mold and fungus, causing allergies and rot.  Left to grown and spread, these molds and fungus’ can cause severe contaminations requiring complete removal of building elements or building condemnation.
      • Waders- That’s the pessimist in me again.



Let memory be your guide.  Keep a record of the flood level from last year, either paint a mark on the wall, install a marker plate, or make a sign.

  • Keep items on sturdy shelving above the flood line
  • If you cannot keep them up, put items in containers that can be easily moved.
  • For moist basements, keep items in plastic containers.


Emergency Management

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed several awareness programs, disaster preparation strategies and maintains constant communications with state and local resources in a time of crisis.  Here are some links of interest:

Awareness of flood dangers:  http://www.ready.gov/floodawareness

Flood Preparations: http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/floods.html#kit

Emergency Supply Kit: http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/index.html

Family Emergency Plan: http://www.ready.gov/america/makeaplan/index.html

Be Informed: Get up to date info on any warnings or dangers.


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